Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental and behavioral disorder characterized by the tendency to obsess over minute life details or rituals to the point that they become overwhelming and greatly affect quality of life. The disorder often develops during the teen or early adult years.
Everyone has a tendency to obsess about things from time to time, such as making sure to have a wallet and keys. But for people with OCD, the repetitive checking on tiny life details like this can become all-consuming and lead to additional problems.
Symptoms of OCD
A few characteristics clearly distinguish OCD from run-of-the-mill worrying. People with OCD, for example, may develop real fear and anxiety over the thoughts running through their heads. The fears may be somewhat irrational, such as a fear of germs and being dirty or thoughts of performing forbidden sexual acts or acting out violently. The fears and thoughts sometimes play themselves out over and over again and cannot be controlled.
People with OCD also replay certain actions over and over again, sometimes irrationally. They may lock the door and then unlocking it repeatedly, or they may wash their hands over and over.
If these thoughts and rituals eat up an hour of the day or more, then the person may have OCD. For many, the symptoms evolve to the point of almost nonstop anxiety that can greatly affect their lives and well-being.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can often be treated successfully, generally with a combination of medication and therapy. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Though neither medication is specifically for OCD, they have been shown to help with a number of the symptoms. The type of therapy that's most often recommended for OCD is cognitive behavioral therapy.
However, a variety of medications and therapy have success records in treating OCD so the best approach for someone with the disorder is to work closely with a doctor to find the right combination of treatments to ensure success.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health; International OCD Foundation
Breakthrough could spur better treatments for anxiety disorder, researchers say
Repetitive behaviors, restricted interests occur in both disorders, make correct diagnosis tricky, researchers report
Indicators of schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety might be spotted in physical at 18
Smoking and C-sections appear to boost the odds for the psychiatric disorder, study suggests
Study suggests a link, but it's not clear how overwork, mental issues may be connected
Small study suggests neural activity can point to patients who'll benefit most from psychotherapy
Study finds boredom, frustration, impatience fuel repetitive, body-focused behaviors in certain people
MRI looks at a brain structure in patients who haven't benefited from standard treatments
But the absolute risk to any one person with obsessive-compulsive disorder remains very small, experts say
Difference for people with OCD is how they react, experts say
SSRI drugs found effective, but study raps risperidone
Scientists found same areas of brain were changed in dogs and people with compulsive disorder
Authors say it defines disorders more concisely; critics say it will lead to over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatments
Symptoms usually temporary, half of the women studied reported improvements after 6 months
MRI scans showed it normalized activity in areas of brain related to reward
Women with anxiety disorders 3.5 times more likely to report abuse
But specific genes for the mental health conditions have yet to be pinpointed
Researchers say finding shows behavior is different from other obsessive-compulsive disorders
Large study found nearly 4 percent wander at night, often tied to mental woes
Long-term study shows cingulotomy helped improve severe obsessive-compulsive symptoms
Non-FDA-approved use of drugs showed limited benefits and some harm in large review
But the therapy can be hard to find in many communities, researchers note
Ritualistic behaviors common to moms with postpartum OCD are preventable, researchers say
Fixing gene connected to immune system cured 'hair-pulling' disorder in mice, study found
Drugs targeting obsessive behavior might hold promise for people
Repetitive flank-sucking in Dobermans and hand-washing in humans could share similar DNA, researchers say
Deep brain stimulation reduced tics in small study
Infection rates are found to be no higher among those with OCD or Tourette syndrome
Here are potential symptoms
Well-meaning assistance may do more harm than good, experts say
Many more cases have not been identified, U.S. health officials say
Reclaim device delivers electrical stimulation to the brain
Researchers say finding could lead to treatment for compulsive, addictive disorders
Full-blown obsessive symptoms seen in both younger, older children, study finds
Researchers say it's the 'pain of paying' that drives consumer choices
Found less activity in region that curbs habitual thinking, researchers say
Impulsive gambling, shopping, sex and binge eating common among patients, study shows
Possible warning signs
Study finds they have a mental rigidity that keeps them from folding their cards
Holidays are especially difficult for compulsive shoppers, experts say
Whether damage is permanent or reversible needs further investigation, study says
Protein regulating glutamate flow may explain why anxiety disorder runs in families
Research found genetics and stress, not mimicry, were behind compulsive behavior
Combination with drugs most effective for compulsive behavior, finds study
Survey finds 31 million American adults have at least one
Anthrax survivors suffer long after attack, finds study
Antidepressant helps people curb compulsion to buy things
Fathers are affected too, a new study shows
Deep brain stimulation offers relief from compulsive disorder, but has side effects